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Concern for hantavirus exposure spreads

Uncommon in Iowa, but precaution is key

September 13, 2012
By CRAIG MOON - Contributing Writer ( , Times-Republican

Iowa has plenty of mice and fall is the time of year when may of us notice an unwelcome house guest. Recent headlines remind us that some mice carry the deadly hantavirus. But what is the risk for central Iowans?

The statistics for the Yosemite National Park outbreak are frightening. So far the toll is 22,000 visitor warnings, eight confirmed illnesses and three fatalities. On Sept. 10 CBS news reported that a home located in a suburb of Houston was quarantined. Featured in a reality television series about hoarders, the owner's daughter had been diagnosed with the illness.

The deadly virus has flu like symptoms that may present up to six weeks after exposure to contaminated mouse feces or urine. A severe life threatening pneumonia may develop. The virus is not spread by person to person contact.

Ann Garvey is a veterinary epidemiologist, and works for the Iowa Department of Health as the state's Public Health Veterinarian.

"Since 1993 there have been eight documented cases of hantavirus in Iowa, the last one in 2011," Garvey said.

According to Garvey the virus has been documented in both the white-footed mouse and the deer mouse. The deer mouse appears to be the most likely carrier in our state. Iowa State University and Extension identifies both species as seasonal visitors to homes. Information from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics also identifies the potential risk of grain storage areas.

Assessing risk factors for Central Iowans, Garvey said "though hantavirus is relatively uncommon in our state, it is important to clean up infestations and to use proper procedures and precautions during clean up."

Those procedures may be found on the website for the Iowa Department of Health. Their phone number is 866-227-9878.

Garvey also urges anyone who becomes ill after exposure to an infestation should contact their physician immediately.



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